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Life is Good: Lessons Learned from a T-Shirt

Life is Good: Lessons Learned from a T-Shirt



Laurel Kaddatz, DVM
Pound Ridge Veterinary Center, Pound Ridge, New York

Author_L-KaddatzAs I write this column, I’m remembering the 2016 NAVC Conference—the valuable education sessions and the fun we had during those five days in January. One of the highlights for me and, perhaps for you, too, was the opening session with Life is Good cofounder Bert Jacobs.

In addition to telling the story of founding Life is Good with his brother John, Bert shared inspirational anecdotes that resonated with many of us. Our profession and our businesses, like theirs, form an emotional bond with clients that builds and maintains a sense of community.

Do what you like, like what you do is one of the Life is Good maxims that has appealed to many of us over the 20 years that Bert and John’s company has been in existence. These truisms can serve as motivational life lessons for all of us hardworking and stressed veterinarians.

I was born into the Baby Boomer generation. The understanding was, if you didn’t work more than 60 hours a week, your work ethic left something to be desired. Thankfully, many of us are fortunate in that we don’t consider what we do actual work. Even with liking what we do, down time is important for our mental health.

What do you do to “chill out,” remove your mind from the office, and rejuvenate your body? For me, golf is part of the answer. Being outside in fresh air and engaging in enjoyable physical activity gives me a lift, while at the same time keeping me humble, knowing I’ll never play the tour! Golf allows me to think of something other than the patient from yesterday that isn’t progressing as I had hoped.

Golf is an activity that many veterinarians are attracted to, as most of us are driven to do the best we can with whatever we do. The well-struck shot to the green and the satisfying sound that indicates perfect contact of the ball off the clubface gives the perfectionist in me a boost that keeps me coming back for more.

As Arnold Palmer said, “Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening—and it is, without a doubt, the greatest game mankind has ever invented.” I agree. Despite its challenges, and perhaps because of them, golf is good.

Work to live, don’t live to work. This maxim correlates well with the first one. Work should provide the means to enjoy your life. I take that to heart by enjoying photography and travel. I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to travel to many parts of the world and bring home amazing memories in photographs from Cambodia to New Zealand to South Africa to the Galapagos Islands.

The primary lesson I’ve gained from photography is that, when observing the world and your surroundings through a camera lens, your perspective changes when looking at what has been familiar. Looking at the detail of what you see opens your mind to a different understanding and meaning of the world around you.

Veterinarians are, by nature and training, detail oriented. Photography works by bringing those details we connect with—subject matter, composition, lighting, exposure, and editing—to an audience, allowing them to see the subject matter through our eyes and emotionally connect with it in a similar manner. Photographs are also a tangible reminder, once we are home again, that our world is so much larger than our work.

My interest in photography has also become an important part of my work, and utilizing this new skill in my practice became rewarding in a number of ways. In addition to posting on Facebook for our practice, we use photos of various skin tumors and lesions that are imported into the medical chart as a means of following the progression of a case. Another example is using a photo taken of a fine needle aspirate through the microscope lens as an educational resource when comparing it to the histopathology report.

Life is good, together was printed on the t-shirt given to everyone who attended Bert Jacobs’ presentation. (Thanks, Merial, for your sponsorship! The shirts were incredibly popular.)

Throughout my career in organized veterinary medicine, I’ve understood that it doesn’t matter if you are a small animal or food production veterinarian, a small business owner or someone who works in the industry, from New York or the Midwest, from the United States or Thailand—our common denominator is that we are all veterinarians who share a passion for our profession. We are a community of individuals who feel the need to give back to the profession in our own unique way.

The NAVC Board of Directors and the entire NAVC team personify that passion by providing the best educational opportunities for each person on the health care team, whether it’s at the Conference, Spring Institute, online with Vet Folio, or through our leading journals, Today’s Veterinary Practice and Today’s Veterinary Technician. With the veterinary industry professionals we serve, we are, all together, better.

I’ll sign off with my favorite Life is Good maxim: Be the person your dog thinks you are. With or without the t-shirt, you just can’t improve on that advice!

—Laurel A. Kaddatz, DVM

Treasurer, NAVC Board of Directors


Dr. Kaddatz’s dog, Halley


Along the canals of Bangkok, Thailand


Trekking the Great Wall of China.